Iowa Hawkeyes Football: Five Reasons Why They Will Face More Adversity in 2010

Michael MaxwellCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2010

Although it was one of the more successful campaigns in recent memory, due largely to the manner in which they won, it became very fashionable for outsiders to bash the Iowa Football program during the 2009 season.

Yet, in the wake of the big Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech, it seems that the tables have all of the sudden been turned.  Heaping praise on Iowa has quickly become as fashionable as bashing the BCS. 

Every time I pick up an article prognosticating about the 2010 season, Iowa is getting an awful lot of love.  Big Ten favorites?  Maybe a stretch, as Ohio St. and Wisconsin are going to be very tough in 2010.  National title contenders?  A possibility at this point, if a few things go their way, but boy, this really seems premature to me, at least at this stage.

Iowa isn’t going to be handed anything in 2010.  In fact, the Hawkeyes are going to have to earn every inch.  Here are some reasons why the 2010 version of the Hawks will face more adversity than the 2009 team.


Iowa Isn’t Going To Sneak Up On Anyone In 2010


Certainly Iowa was recognized as a quality team coming into 2009, but very few so-called experts would have picked Iowa to win a BCS game coming out of summer camp. 

However, given the strong performance against George Tech in the Orange Bowl, it is safe to say that every single team on Iowa’s schedule is going to be gunning for the Hawkeyes in 2010. 

During the course of the 2009 Big Ten year, Iowa was the underdog in every road game.  With expectations relatively low and the pressure off, Iowa managed to come away with three road wins out of four in 2009, with the only loss a heartbreaker in OT at Ohio St.

Conversely, it is conceivable that Iowa will be favored in all of their 2010 Big Ten road games at Michigan, Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota.  My guess is that each of these Big Ten rivals will be highly motivated to prove the Vegas point spread dead wrong.



Non-Conference Road Game At Arizona

Teams that expect to compete for a conference championship (and perhaps national title) need to schedule at least one or two challenging non-conference games to stay sharp early in the year.  In addition to the annual battle for in-state supremacy with Iowa State, Iowa will face Pac-10 foe Arizona again in 2010.

However, this time Iowa will travel to the desert southwest for an early season showdown the third week of September.  Iowa’s last trip to the Grand Canyon State was certainly one to forget, as Iowa was blasted by Arizona State 44-7 in 2004.  In fact, Iowa has not won in the state of Arizona since a narrow 15-14 win at Arizona in 1987.   

Arizona posted an impressive 5-1 record in Tucson in 2009, and you can bet that Mike Stoops and crew will have little extra spring in their step against Iowa as they look to avenge a hard fought loss at Kinnick Stadium in 2009.


Most of the More Difficult Games Are At Home In 2010

While this may seem like a positive at first glance, let's examine this a little deeper before jumping to this conclusion.  Look at how the 2009 team performed at home:

  • After losing most of the game, barely beat Northern Iowa.
  • Fell behind against Arizona, only to come back to post fairly convincing win.
  • Barely beat Arkansas St.
  • Barely beat Michigan.
  • Were getting blown away by a vastly inferior Indiana team before springing to life in fourth quarter to win going way.
  • Lost to a gritty Northwestern team that historically has given the Hawkeye fits.
  •  Posted a shutout win vs. Minnesota where the defense obviously was the star, but the offense looked pitiful at times.

Compare this to their road performance

  • Convincing win at Iowa St.
  • Convincing win at Penn St.
  • Convincing win at Wisconsin.
  • Miracle finish at Michigan St.
  • Near upset of five-time Big Ten Champion Ohio St.
  • I’ll count the dominating performance against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl as a road game.

Do you see a pattern?  I do, and the pattern is that for whatever reason, this team played better and more focused football on the road. 

Let’s face it, while the atmosphere inside Kinnick Stadium certainly is tremendous and is as good as any home field advantage in the nation, the game still must be won by the players on the field.  Off the field, there are more distractions at home that tend to pull players away from the task at hand.  Conversely, all you have on the road to focus on is the game.  It is us against the world.

When Penn St., Wisconsin, Michigan St., and Ohio St. come a-calling on Kinnick in 2010, Iowa is going to have to play much better at home, otherwise, wins against this talented group will be hard to come by.


Expectations From the Iowa Nation Are Going To Be Sky High

I’m sure that if you asked the coaches and players about fan expectations, they would tell you that it has absolutely no bearing on their performance.  Perhaps some part of that is true.

However, it will be impossible for the team not to be aware of the news coverage surrounding the team as the 2010 season approaches. 

Look no further than the loss at home last year to Northwestern.  Iowa was 9-0 coming off as thrilling a win as you will ever see against Indiana, DJK was just on the cover of Sports Illustrated, expectations were through the roof. 

After jumping out to the 10-0 lead, the Hawks came crashing back to earth.  The old cliché is so true: Don’t get too high after a win, but don’t get too low after a loss.  It is going to take that type of focus to make 2010 a historic year.


The Offensive Line Will Need To Replace Four Experienced Starters

The vast majority of football games generally aren’t won by the glamour-skill position players.  No, it is the team that controls the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball that will have the most success.

For the most part, Iowa generally was able to win the line of scrimmage battles on both sides of the ball in 2009.  With all four starters on the defensive line returning, the D-line is likely to be the strength of the entire team.

There are certainly more questions on the offensive side of the ball.  Gone are junior Bryan Bulaga and seniors Dace Richardson, Kyle Calloway, and Rafael Eubanks.  It will be up to returning starters Riley Reiff and Julian Vandervelde to lead a relatively inexperienced group.

Of course the good news is that the offensive line just happens to be Kirk Ferentz’s specialty.  Iowa has demonstrated an uncanny knack for being able to reload these positions throughout Ferentz’s 10-year tenure in Iowa City.  I would expect that by the time the 2010 season rolls around, Ferentz will have molded another exceptional group along the offensive front.

The 2009 season was certainly a wild ride.  With the returning talent and experience, 2010 has all the makings of another historic year.  Yet, there are plenty of challenges and road blocks ahead for the 2010 group. 

Here’s hoping the coaching staff is able to keep the players grounded and equally focused on above potential for adversity ahead in 2010 to counterbalance all of the rosy prognostications surrounding the 2010 Hawkeyes.


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